Being mammals, raccoons will express many of the
same symptoms of sickness as dogs and cats and
even us humans. The range, type, and severity of
the symptoms will depend on the contracted
disease. As of today, the three most fatal
diseases to raccoons are rabies, Canine
Distemper, and Feline Distemper.
Since raccoons are well known for being an RVS (a Rabies Vector Species), it's important to note the apparent symptoms that manifest in an infected raccoon. Rabid raccoons often will appear disorientated or lethargic. Where a healthy raccoon walks attentively and consciously, a rabid raccoon may stagger or stumble as it moves, walk in circles, or simply not move at all. Paralysis in the hind legs has been noted in infected raccoons that drag their legs as they move.
Aside from physical symptoms, a rabid raccoon also may exhibit abnormally aggressive or friendly behavior to those that approach it. Famous symptoms, such as foaming at the mouth, and sensitivity to light and sound, are also indicative of an infected raccoon.
When examining supposedly rabid raccoons, it's extremely important to take note of the symptoms. Canine Distemper (CDV), a measles-related disease that can inflict pain and death upon the raccoon, has symptoms very similar to rabies. In advanced cases of CDV, vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, coughing, and high fever have been reported. More obvious symptoms of CDV include nasal discharge (mucus on and around the nose) and a phenomenon known as hyperkeratosis, which is the overgrowth or hardening of the skin, particularly on the nose.
Feline Distemper (FDV), too, can infect raccoons. Unlike rabies and FDV, however, it does not attack the neurological system. It also seems to be the least fatal of the three viruses mentioned in this article, though it can cause death. Symptoms of FDV include depression, loss of appetite, foamy vomiting, and bloody diarrhea.
These are just a few diseases that raccoons can contract and express symptoms of, but are the most dangerous to raccoons. While most people are aware of the danger of rabies in raccoons, the virus is easily dealt with as it cannot survive outside of a host and has a readily available vaccine. So long as symptoms of rabies are noted early, the virus is very treatable, and poses little threat compared to CDV or FDV.
While rabies can only be transmitted by being bitten by an infected, which occurs through biting, CDV and FDV both are transferred through physical contact, and can survive outside of the host for several days. CDV is especially contagious, as it can become airborne and inhaled by an unsuspecting host.
Any raccoon which presents the noted symptoms should be handled with extreme caution, as an infected raccoon, as well as its disease, can be extremely dangerous.
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